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President Zelensky’s visit to Britain has given some Ukrainian pilots an opportunity to receive future UK combat training in NATO-compatible aircraft. The offer comes with British-led tank training efforts already underway and could serve as a stepping stone toward the Ukrainian military acquiring combat aircraft of its own. Now, a former UK air commander is urging the UK to offer Ukraine “Top Gun” level training, utilising Britain’s world-class facilities and instructor training programmes.
Greg Bagwell wrote in the Telegraph that despite some reported delays in the UK military flying training system, there are means of quickly and efficiently training Ukranian pilots on NATO systems and weapons.
The retired Air Marshal said: “Although each aircraft type is different, the system and weapon basics are approximately 80 per cent common, so read-across is relatively straightforward. London’s offer could encompass postgraduate type training.
“The UK has facilities that do this routinely and provides some of the best, if not the best, weapons instructor training in the world. So not only would this be of the highest quality and value, it would not have any impact on UK capability or training.
“This could be done largely through simulation that either replicates specific types of jet, or emulates the most common displays, symbology and mechanics of weapon employment in what are known as part-task trainers.”
He added: “While there could well be a longer term offer for actual, and more basic, flying training, the priority now should be to train experienced or recently qualified pilots on the newer systems and modern tactics that NATO employs, in preparation for a future aircraft transfer.”
The President of the Air and Space Power Association argued the training could largely be done through simulations.
Mr Bagwell added: “The real value could be some of the best training and air combat knowledge in the world.
“The RAF isn’t just the oldest independent air force; person for person it remains one of the very best, and its postgraduate warfare training, which doesn’t make the news, is world renowned.
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“With this offer, Ukraine could have its very own virtual “Top Gun” school – and we know how that story turns out.”
Downing Street has said it is looking at a “whole suite of options” to assist the Ukrainians in their battle against Russia when asked again about sending warplanes.
Asked about President Zelensky suggesting some European leaders were ready to provide fighter jets to Kyiv, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was seeing “whether we can provide fighter jets in the future”.
“You’ve seen what the Defence Secretary has said this morning, that fast jets are not the only capability that can be used, and obviously we will look at the whole suite of options to ensure we can continue to support them in the best way possible,” said the No 10 official.
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Asked about Mr Wallace saying Ukrainian pilot training would “probably” not be complete until “post-conflict”, the spokesman repeated No 10’s stance that Britain would explore “whether there is a way to adapt our training to speed up the process”.
“But it remains the case that fighter jets are an incredibly complex piece of equipment,” he added.
Asked whether conversations with those countries had been held on the “principle” of signing-off on British jets being supplied, the spokesman added: “As you would expect, we are having discussions about additional capabilities with our allies including those countries.
“I’m not going to get drawn into specifics around permissions for particular types of equipment, I don’t think that would be helpful.”
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